Time for radical solutions

Secondary schools across England might well have been facing much greater issues over staffing their timetables for September than they are but for the syphoning off of cash into increased National Insurance and pension contributions.  While that decision to boost government finances may be a relief to both the Treasury and the DfE, since it both diminishes the size of any crisis and provides so much needed cash for the government, it doesn’t mean that there is any reason to relax.

As this blog has shown, 2016 is likely to be as challenging a recruitment round as was 2015, if not more so. At TeachVac,  www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment service, the average secondary school in London had placed more than six advertisements for classroom teachers since the start of 2015 and the end of June: some schools have placed many more.

This blog has long recognised that something has to be done to alleviate the growing pressure on staffing and the associated recruitment issues. At the start of 2015 I advocated a return to a ‘no fees’ policy for graduates, with the State once again paying the fees of those graduates opting to train as a teacher. So far, the government has been resistant to this proposal.

What else might be done? We know that there are a few subjects, physical education and history being the main ones, where there is some over-capacity emerging from training programmes. There is a need for a programme of post-training subject knowledge enhancement that might help some of these teachers secure employment in another subject. After all, they have shown a desire to become a teacher and undergone a training programme, often at considerable expense to themselves. Do we just abandon them to their fate or try to harness their potential?

We know that IT and business studies teachers are both in short supply. How about a one term conversion course to equip some of these teachers with subject knowledge. They have the knowledge to teach for their existing training so most of the time could be classroom based with some days spent turning the new knowledge into practical experience teaching classes. The whole program could be university or school-based.

I wonder if there is an IT company that might sponsor a group of 25 through a pilot programme as it is difficult to see what new steps the National College are taking to help reduce teacher shortages. Indeed, it is surely time for a management change at the top of that organisation if it once again fails to deliver as many trainees as a required having been warned of what was to come two years ago.

If the troops to teacher model has proved its worth, it is surely time to roll it out to a wider group of potential career changers or create a whole new programme to encourage teaching as a second career. For those with really long memories, we might even call it the TASC programme.

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